How can action get higher over time?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    This is not a newbie question.

    Or maybe it is, from someone who's been around for a while but never experienced this before. I've been doing my own setups for decades, without a problem, so please read carefully before responding.

    My Bongo is weirding out on me. I don't use it a whole lot lately, decided to take it to a rehearsal last week. Noticed the action had gotten pretty high, there was a little play in the neck, I tightened it up a bit... and the action was still higher than my preference. Sighted the neck, and it's pretty much straight now (little if any relief), and the bridge saddles are all flat against the plate. :eyebrow: The action was pretty sweet on this bass when I got it, and I've no clue what's going on.

    Do I have to shim it? If so, what's the best way as I only shimmed one other bass since I've been playing. And it was a POS that I didn't care much about. This here is one of my babies. Also, what could cause this to happen? I'm kinda stumped.
  2. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    Just a thought, but maybe check the neck screws to make sure they're still tight and check the bridge to make sure the height adjustments are staying in place.
    It might not be clearly visible if the saddles have gone a little wonky.

    The bridge usually goes the other way if the screws are loose, but you never know.
    I had to put a little blue Loctite on my Hipshot height adjustment screws to keep them from moving due to the vibration of playing.

    Temperature change can do some odd things to dissimilar materials that are joined together.
  3. shawshank72


    Mar 22, 2009
    Like to know also.
    Hate when this happens.
  4. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Whoo, boy! If the saddles are all on the deck if you've got a major problem as you've lost the optimal string "arc" necessary to accommodate the fretboard radius. If everything else is solid, a shim would be the best action. Your neck / pocket joint and bridge / body contacts are 100%, correct? By that I mean no lifting or separation.

    BTW, where is your relief set?

  5. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Joe--when you checked the neck bolts, was the bass strung at pitch?

    Might be worth slacking all the strings, maybe lifting the neck a bit and then pushing it back down to make sure it's sitting flat in the pocket, then retightening the neck bolts.
  6. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    Also, if you haven't already, you might want to check in at the MM forum.
    There may be something specific to a Bongo that you need to know.

    Definitely something not right about finding loose neck screws.
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Loose neck screws hmmm? Not cool

    First. Remove the neck. Check the holes in the heel for stripping.

    Next check the holes in the body. Do the screws pass through un impeded or do they thread through? If they thread through that is no good.

    That means the factory clamped the neck to the body and shot the screws through both. When you unscrew them it is hard to get the neck flat in the pocket.

    The solution is to drill our the body holes do the screws pass through un impeded and only thread into the neck. Then the screw heads on the plate do their job and draw the heel flat into the pocket. I had this problem with my Epiphone thunderbird. Drilled the body holes our and now it is nice and tight.

    If none of that applies, more information is needed. You said the neck has no relief already. You said the saddles are on the deck. You may need that shim.

    Just cut a piece of business card as wide as the pocket and about a half inch across. Lay it in the pocket on the ehd closest to the pickups. Carry on. Many guys use feeler gauges as shims. Also a good choice. About .010 - .015" should do it.
  8. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Aight... I may have jumped the gun on this post. Shoulda checked the bolts in the tailpiece. It looked flat against the bass, so I thought it was fine, but both bolts took about an eigth of a turn, which actually made a slight difference. I also tightened the truss rod a tiny bit more, and we're back to normal. Saddles are still pretty much all the way down though and I'm considering shimming it next time I change the strings. Does that compromise the bass in any way?
  9. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    When done correctly, no. Heck, it may already have a shim in place. I've taken apart brand new basses to find an end of pocket shim present.

  10. Rich McCoy

    Rich McCoy

    Apr 8, 2013
    It's getting cold, and dry. These things affect wood, usually causes shrinkage.
    And, pun intended, I sure hate it when cold weather causes my wood to act up...
  11. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    +1 Wood with changes in heat, and (if not 100% sealed) humidity will always tend to change. Wood under [DEL]tension[/DEL] Compression adds to the problems.

    MM have a good rep for rugged instruments. The bongo is basswood :confused:. I'd imagine it has different mechanical properties to ash, alder or mahogany. I know my basswood basses tend to get more dents. But that could be the finishes fault (don't have two similar instruments, aside from body wood type).
  12. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Yep, My 62 jazz has one; original equipment.
  13. HCEarwicker


    Aug 30, 2013
    London UK
    Pretty sure this is happening to my DeArmond Starfire. Had it for about 10 years and all's been well. But lately I've noticed that to get the action I like (low but not super-low, with the neck almost straight) the bridge saddles are getting close to being maxed out. My guess is that the wood's been shifting over time, particularly at the change of seasons. The Starfire is neck-through so shimming's not an easy option. Not at crisis point yet, but what would be the preferred solution?
  14. oysteivi

    oysteivi Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2013
    Trondheim, Norway
    If the bridge construction permits it, I'd file a little bit off the bottom of each individual saddle as needed to drop it further. That's cheap, easy, and nearly invisible.
  15. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA

    This can be done with a vise and a flat file and looks very professional if done with care. Use leather, wood, or plastic to avoid marring the saddle. I have only done it with barrel-type saddles, but it ought to work with others. I found that taking about 1mm off the bottom solved the problem and accommodated all future seasonal adjustments.

    I like my necks with only scant relief in them, which requires you to set the strings pretty low against the bridge. A bridge with a thick base plate is already a little high in many instances.

    Just my $0.02.
  16. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Hey Joe, not sure if this is your same issue I'm in PA and about this time every year when my heat starts running and air dries up pretty good many of my basses (except my Modulus and Zon) need about 1/4 to 1/2 tightening turn. Then in the end of spring when it gets moist and humid I have to take it back out...Not sure if it's an east coast thing or what but something I noticed over time with several of my basses.
  17. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    It's an inexact science, to be sure, but I find that my action gets higher when the seasons get cold and goes lower when they warm up again, to the tune of 1-2 turns of the saddle height adjusters on the bridge. It doesn't usually require a truss rod tweak on instruments I have had for awhile.
  18. HCEarwicker


    Aug 30, 2013
    London UK
    Thanks oysteivi and Edward G.

    I'm hoping things don't come to that, but shaving the underside of the barrels does sound like a good, issue-free solution - and the only solution short of ungluing the neck (etc!)?
  19. bassdude51

    bassdude51 Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Umm, I didn't read all of the comments. Fret at #1 and hold it there, then fret at the last fret and hold it there. Look for a gap from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret at #9 or #10 of about the thickness of a business card.

    Then use that wonderful Musicman truss rod wheel to get the proper relief. Then set up your action.

    If you can't get your action low enough then yeah, you might have to shim your neck.

    But, if at one time your Bongo was OK and now it's not, you should only have to adjust the truss rod to get it right again.

    On necks, temperature and humidity are constantly changing the bow and sometimes we have to tweak the truss rod almost monthly. This is normal. IMHO, especially on 24 fret necks.

    Ernie Ball has excellent customer service and in the rare event of a bad neck, they'll make it right.
  20. T-MOST


    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    One reason might be your truss rod may need adjusting. If your neck starts to bow your action will change.